Mayor Sadiq Khan is very supportive of making London a National Park City.
But Khan has also just agreed the felling of many acres of inner city cemetery woods for burial plots.
This Wednesday, around 1,000 people attended an excellent event at the Royal Festival Hall with a wide range of speakers calling to make London the first National Park City in the world.
One of the speakers was the London Mayor’s Health Advisor, Dr Tom Coffey.
Dr Coffey said how keen Mayor Khan is to get London National Park City status which is part of Khan’s commitment to greening London.
London’s urban forest currently absorbs a sixth of the city’s deadly air pollution, which kills nearly 10,000 Londoners early each year. Khan says he wants to plant two million trees to help.
But Mayor Khan has simultaneously given London boroughs the green light to fell acres of inner city woods, thousands of trees, to dig up old graves for ‘new’ burial plots.
London’s municipal cemeteries are some of the most wild nature places in London, where woods have grown up around the old graves. Think Highgate or Nunhead Cemetery.
Southwark, the test case, has already cleared two acres of Grade 1 SINC woods for burial plots, with at least ten more acres still for the chop. And hundreds more acres of inner city woods are now at risk across the city.
Khan and over 200 wards across London’s boroughs have signed up to making London a National Park City. It now looks like it could actually happen.
But campaigners are looking for action from Khan to save acres of woods under threat right now.
Why is Khan agreeing to the felling of thousands of inner city trees to bury people?
“Prepare to watch hundreds of trees being felled in your borough’s cemeteries, and your parents’ and grandparents’ graves mounded over or dug up,” says Blanche Cameron, spokesperson for the Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries’ campaign Save Southwark Woods.
“That’s what’s happening in Southwark right now.”
“We cannot cut down trees to bury people, it’s madness. Woods are the lungs of London – we need more not less. We are calling on politicians and people to make our inner city cemeteries Nature Reserves and use the burial space that already exists on the edge of the city.”
Meanwhile, the hideous irony of cutting down trees to bury people is not lost on residents and campaigners. Southwark says borough demand for burial plots is about 200 a year.
That’s roughly the same number as died early from air pollution related illnesses in the borough last year. Their graves are waiting – and our beautiful, valuable inner city woods are dying for it.